4 Social Age Selling Skills

I don’t consider myself old, but I am starting to waver on that belief after reading this Selling Power article.  I started selling back in the days before cell phones and Internet, when the fax machine was viewed as such a timesaver.  Frightening by today’s standards.

The article identifies 4 selling skills you need in today’s socially-connected world.  Here are the first 3:

    1. Social Listening
    2. Social Researching
    3. Social Networking

Those 3 are critical and hopefully most salespeople are aware of these needed skills.  However, the 4th point is most interesting:

4. Social Engaging

This is the newest skill for sellers.  Consequently, it holds the biggest competitive advantage for sellers who master it quickly.  There are two types of social-engagement actions:

    1. Commenting on someone else’s post
    2. Initiating a post

I agree with the Social Engaging activity – the majority of sales that I encounter are relationship-based.  The transactional sales have moved to more automated channels.  The relationship sale is difficult to initiate by phone or email.  But an online conversation…that is a back door to initiate the relationship.  I also appreciate the thought-leader aspect of it.  If you are able to provide some value-add to the conversation, you instantly frame the relationship in a favorable (for the salesperson) light.

The Illegality Of Facebook Due Diligence

Well, there isn’t any precedence yet, according to this StarTribune article.  Clearly the proper use of social networking sites during background checks for candidates is going to be a tremendously important legal topic soon.  This topic has been percolating for some time.  The article references an obvious starting point:

“We can suggest to employers that they include in their application process some statement that says ‘we do reference checking including use of information in the public domain’ and to make it broad enough that if they discover something online it’s fair game,” Ridley said.

I have always been one to note that the Internet IS a public domain so anything a candidate chooses to post online should be usable.  That only seems logical to me, but I know there are others who see it differently.  From the article:

Professional recruiter Gillian Gabriel said she doesn’t use Facebook in her screening process. Instead, Gabriel said, she uses sites like the professionally oriented LinkedIn where people often are looking for job and career connections. Gabriel also looks at blog connections posted on a candidate’s LinkedIn page.

“Whatever they put out there is fair game,” Gabriel said.

“Fair game” seems to be the preferred phrase for this topic.  Anyway, LinkedIn and blogs seem like a good starting point.  I would still choose to look at Facebook also.  I like to know as much as possible about a candidate and if it is online, I’m going to read it.  Just being real.

One last note that caught my eye from the article:

Schmedemann said employers are turning to social media because they “are under pressure to hire carefully” in an economy where there are plenty of job seekers and few jobs. “People fake their résumés much more than they used to,” she said.

Great point.  The difficult job market does lead to desperate acts.

The Future Of Social Networking

The Herman Trend Alert’s topic this week is the future of social networking.  An excerpt for you (my bolding):

“Social networking is in its infancy”, says David Nour, Relationship Economics CEO and Web 2.0 guru. “We’re on the upward swing of the hype cycle”. Lots of people are discovering the power of Social Networking and investing their time and energy to make it work for them.

“The real power and promise of Social Networking is a mass collaboration platform, accelerating one’s ability to get things done”, adds Nour. Enlightened individuals are shifting from “not invented here” to “invented everywhere.” It gives us the opportunity to extend our reach beyond any geographic, functional roles, or even industry sectors to learn and grow from others.

That bolded point is an excellent one, is it not?  I have found myself conversing with people from industries I would never have expected.  That is one truth about sales – the fundamentals of it are consistent across industries.  You wouldn’t suspect that truth by looking at sales employment ads which is disappointing.

Sales always comes down to prospecting, qualifying and closing.  The challenges of this work is surprisingly consistent in product sales, service sales, distribution sales, OEM sales…the fundamentals are the same.  This fact is why it is important to measure a sales candidate’s skills and talents with as much, or more, weight than their previous experience.

A relatively new aspect of sales hiring will be an understanding of a candidate’s network.  More sales are moving to this channel and candidates who bring an expansive social network will have an inherent leg up on less-connected candidates.

LinkedIn Registrations Booming

Seems like LinkedIn is benefiting from the recent financial industries crisis.  According to a post at Cheezhead they have had significant increases in registrations and in recommendations:

The site has reported a 17 percent increase in registrations in the last two weeks. They are now claiming to reach 28 million users, up one million from last quarter.

Reports show that memberships from people representing the financial sector have also doubled after thousands of people have been laid off or threatened with termination as closures and mergers usurp industry leaders and rattle the core of the sector.

The site also claims to have seen a 14 percent increase in recommendations, most likely a result of users scrambling to attach praise to their resume in order to find stable jobs in a worsening economy.

I’m sure that other sites are seeing an increase in activity from the financial sector as well (i.e. Monster, CareerBuilder, Plaxo, Facebook, etc.)  Understatement—-I have a feeling you can find many financial industry candidates on these boards/sites right now.

Social Network Sleuthing

Let me state my position – I believe employers should research all sites when considering a candidate for hire.  That includes social-networking sites.  I know there are arguments for both sides of this new debate and I am not completely sold on my position.  However, it appears that the trend among hiring managers is to use these sites in their hiring process:

The study, reported by Reuters, found that out of 3,169 hiring managers, 22 percent of them (about 698 managers) used social networking sites to find out information regarding potential candidates. This is up from 11 percent, or 349 managers, since 2006.

Even though 22 percent may not seem like a huge number now, one can only expect that number to continue to rise. The study revealed that 9 percent surveyed were currently not using social networking sites for screening purposes but plan to in the future.

The web is a public domain so I am of the opinion anything you put up there can or will be read by someone else.  I think it is foolhardy to think otherwise.

If you read the rest of the article, you will find 4 suggestions for maintaining your privacy on these sites.

Building Rapport

Saleshq.com provides a simple list of suggestions for building rapport and connecting with others at networking events.  I’m not certain the list is all that remarkable, but I was struck by a couple of tips:

5. Show interest in your conversational partner by actively listening and giving verbal feedback. Maintain eye contact. Never glance around the room while they are talking to you.

6. Listen more than you talk.

Clearly you have to talk to build rapport, but the actual bonding occurs when your mouth is closed.  I especially enjoyed the suggestion to “never” look around the room when someone is speaking to you.  I have a friend who does this and I instantly know he has checked out of the conversation.

Why is it so hard to simply listen?  I know there are times when I struggle with it too.

The Best Social Networking – In-Person

I don’t think this is a big surprise, but in-person networking is the most important.  From the Career News newsletter (sorry, no link):

While the execs expected the importance of online networking to grow from 24% now to 38% in two years’ time, that’s still less important than developing personal contacts (81%), contacting recruiters (63%) or using job boards (51%). Some 93% of the senior executives surveyed said putting time into developing their ‘personal brand’ was a wise career move. While some three-quarters said this was best done offline, two-thirds said they do use social networking sites to look good.

Commenting on the findings, Carol Rosati, director at Harvey Nash, said: “While online networking does not replace human interaction, it does provide candidates with an additional set of resources to create and maintain a personal brand and complement the profile they build through ‘real world’ networking.” The top social networking sites for senior execs looking for career progression were LinkedIn (57%), Plaxo (16%), and Facebook took just 6% of the vote (ed.-my emphasis).

In a way, it seems that the gist of this survey misses the point of social network sites.  They are a tool to improved networking, but I don’t think people view them as a replacement to in-person or phone call networking.  I could be wrong here as I suspect there are people who just connect with others just for the sake of connecting.  Maybe that should be called social connecting as opposed to networking?

Cyberslamming And Social Network Checks

Using social networks like Myspace and Facebook as part of a background check currently falls into a legal grey area.  Apparently this activity is lacking any precedence in the judicial system which means it is risky.  I’m not naive, I suspect most companies Google candidates to see what they discover.

Recruiting Trends provides an article that describes one area where trouble may arise:

There are anecdotes on the Internet of false postings under another person’s name – a sort of “cyber identity theft.” If anonymous information is posted, such as in a chat room, there is the new phenomena of Cyperslamming (sic), where a person can commit defamation without anyone knowing who they are.

What if some of the information you discover is incorrect?  This could be a tremendous problem with legal ramifications.

In case you are a bit skeptical (I was), read this:

One rule to remember
If a website is searched by a background screening firm on behalf of an employer, then consent and certain disclosures is mandated under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

As I mentioned, uncharted waters so be wary.

Employment Branding

We work under a premise that my father is fond of saying, “They typically don’t need longer to say yes.”  This is a truth of life that plays out time and again.  There is one group of people that truly understands this principle…candidates.  If they do not receive any feedback for a disproportionate period of time, they (properly) assume they were not a fit.

What I don’t understand is why recruiters and hiring managers simply don’t tell the candidate they are not a fit.  I have read many articles that discuss employment branding.  In a simple vein, it seems obvious to me that one of the best branding approaches is to be candid and timely with all candidates.

We have a couple of customers who interview candidates and then place them in a black hole.  They tell the candidate they are interested in going to the next step but then they place the candidate in a black hole.  No update, no plan, no contact.

As hiring migrates to a networking-based channel, this black hole approach will brand companies in a bad light.  That is the power of a network – news travels through it quickly.  The better approach will be to simply inform the candidate of their status, even if it is a no.

Social Network Background Checks

There has been much discussed about the use of social networking sites in doing background checks of candidates.  I’m still on the fence, but I am leaning towards using them.  Here is an actual example I heard on Friday.

An owner of a medium-sized company had a problem with a previous executive assistant – let’s just say it was far too personal.  She was dismissed from the role and the company looked to hire a new assistant.

The hiring process for her replacement involved the owner’s wife who was going to spend 1 hour interviewing each candidate.  Also, the new executive assistant would not be allowed on the company plane – she would have to fly commercial.  You get the picture.

One of the final candidates being considered turns out was a former topless dancer.  The candidate shared this information with the recruiter who could have found this information on a social network site (she looked later).  Now, this candidate may have had the right skills, but would it be wise to place her in this position?  Clearly if she was willing to share this private information in an interview and on a social network site, how long would she have been in the role before sharing her past with others?

The owner’s wife would dismiss her as soon as she heard about her past.

So who benefits from silence or a lack of a social network search in this situation?  The strong candidate would have to explain a short tenure at this company.  The owner would still be in need of an executive assistant.

The example is wrought with legal complexities, but in a real-world sense I think the best scenario is to use the social networks in the background check, discover the information and pursue a different candidate.